Sunday, May 30, 2010

Macbeth at the Globe!

Never in my life did I think I would actually have an opportunity to see a Shakespeare play at the Globe Theatre; so this was really beyond my wildest dreams! I love Shakespeare, and to be in the Globe watching one of his shows connected me to him and his time in a special way. Our group had "groundling" tickets, which meant we were standing throughout the performance on the ground (the place where all the lower class would see the play - and we're poor college students, so it makes sense!) This production of Macbeth was definitely a different interpretation - they used a big black canvas to cover the groundling section, which meant that everyone's heads were sticking out, and that's all! They used it throughout the show, and it helped to really be involved in the show. It was a very crazy experience! I loved it.

me, Kathryn and Chelsea, sitting down during intermission. It's not easy being a "groundling"; three hours is a long time to stand! You can see above our heads the black canvas with the little head slots where we can stick our heads out to watch the show!

This is what the groundling section looked like during Macbeth - everyone was all covered up! It was very interesting... they used it as a kind of extension of the stage, and the actors moved around under the canvas, occasionally scaring people and popping in and out of the slots (as you can see in the picture below). It was a great way to involve the audience (well, at least the standing audience), and have the audience members feel the tension of the play. It gets pretty intense when you're not sure if people are going to scare you from underneath!

Macbeth is a tragedy, and this production took advantage of the fact that there are a lot of battles and murders that go on - there was a lot of blood in the show! There were a few times when these guys came up through slots in the groundling section. It was very creepy and gross, but at the same time it made the play very real. It was an interesting experience.

....and then there was the best part of the show! Elliot Cowan, the actor that played Macbeth, was a hot, young version of Macbeth, with plenty of muscle. Besides being fabulously good looking, he was an incredible actor - he was dedicated to his role, and helped the audience see the progression and decline of the character of Macbeth.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

oh, and this too

If ever you visit Windsor Castle, just know, it will knock your freakin' socks off! Windsor Castle is grandísimo (the largest inhabited castle, fyi), and it is breathtaking. It merges everything you imagine a castle to be (complete with stone towers, a moat, a keep) with everything you imagine a palace to be (lavishly decorated, full of treasures and portraits of really important people). It's definitely going on my summer home list. (I just need to run it by Prince William).

give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.

...that's a little John Milton for you!

We visited John Milton's Cottage as a program this week. By the time we got there, we had already been through a long bus ride and had stopped for a few hours at Windsor Castle, so we were all pretty tired, and I'm sure most of the people there didn't really care to be there, but I thought it was fascinating and inspiring. Here's why: Our tour guide pointed out how impressively influential John Milton was, and I don't think we ever give him credit. His philosophies, including his book Areopagitica, was as influential, if not more so, to our Founding Fathers than John Locke. According to our guide, he introduced more words into the English language than Shakespeare himself! He wrote beautiful poetry, including Paradise Lost, one of the greatest epic poems of all time. Isn't it amazing what just one influential man can do? At age forty, he went completely blind, and after that he had to dictate his poetry to his daughters - but this is the amazing part: he would wake up in the morning and have fifty lines of verse in iambic pentameter composed, revised, and perfected all in his head, and he would dictate them to his daughters after he woke up. It astounds me how much good one man can do. On the flip side of that, I spent some time in the Holocaust exhibit at the Imperial War Museum yesterday, and I had to fight back tears the whole time as I contemplated how one person, Hitler, could inspire so much hatred in others... enough hatred to murder millions of Jews. I'm not necessarily trying to draw a parallel between Hitler and John Milton, I'm just meditating on ripple effects, and how both good and bad people make ripples in the water that remain long after they are gone.
Food for thought!
Anyway, onto something else:

I am having a love affair with markets; there is something about a long stretch of road teeming with booths selling everything from teapots to pastries that just touches something in my soul... the moment I arrived on Portobello road and entered into the market, I was a goner! Probably because the first stretch of market was the antique section, full of teapots and jewelery and old prints, and then the next section was food, which as everyone knows is man's best friend (move over, puppies, you are now #2). Portobello market screams one thing to me: Spend lots of money! oh, and I comply.

Baker Street tube stop - not once, but three times :) Go Sherlock Homes!

me, Shaina and Kathryn at Peter Pan. I was seriously impressed with this show; it was the story of Peter Pan with a Scottish twist - complete with Scottish/Celtic music, Scottish accents, etc. And Tinkerbell was a ball of fire! A real ball of fire! It was very impressive, and they had great effects. Oh, and I fell in love with Scottish accents. I thought I loved British accents (and I still do), but Scottish... mmmm. yeah. Good thing I'm going to Scotland tomorrow! :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

lovely day...

There are good days, and then there are great days. And then there are fabulously wonderful days! This day falls under the latter category. My lovely day split into two wonderful cities: Stratford and Oxford. Visiting the birthplace of Shakespeare was surreal to me. There are no words to adequately describe my feelings about it! I was just barely having a conversation with Whitney, a lovely girl in my program, and we were laughing about the fact that I always say things like "this is my favorite day EVER" or "this is the worst sound EVER." Yes. I speak in absolutes. I have a lot of bests. So yes, you will hear my saying that frequently. With that said, I will now exclaim: this was the best day EVER! :)

What a lovely day... to visit Stratford upon Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare!

This is me, and the awkward pose I am making means this: "I am so excited to be standing in front of the birthplace of the absolute greatest writer of the English language! and this is where he was born. and I am here. and he used to be here four hundred years ago. and yes, I am here." Yes, this was definitely a great moment in my life.
This is the house where Shakespeare was born! Isn't it darling?

What do you do when you have 30 minutes of free time in Stratford? Go boating on the river, of course! We rented a boat for 7 pounds and had ourselves a little river adventure, filled with dodging other boats and trying not to run aground :) I was paranoid about capsizing, but we made it out safe and sound! (and dry)
This is me with Stephanie, by the way

lovely Chelsea rowing away with her hair blowing in the wind... how romantic! I tried rowing too, and I wasn't nearly as successful.

We went to Oxford! and apparently this is what they do here :) do you play croquet? (no wonder Lewis Carroll's character the Queen of Hearts was a croquet player - this is what the elite do at Oxford, and queens are definitely elite!) I was utterly enchanted that I was in Oxford walking around watching the brilliant students (I would die to be one of them) playing croquet on a warm spring day to pass the time. HOW GREAT IS THAT??

Oxford architecture is just beautiful. If my map was right (well, let me amend that. If I read my map right), this was designed by Christopher Wren, the architect who designed St. Paul's Cathedral. Oxford rocks. Everyone should visit it.

Outside the Christ Church Cathedral (which is the main cathedral of Oxford University) flanked by blooming trees. The gardens and lawn around Christ Church are so beautiful.

Alice's door! Christ Church at Oxford was famous for the Alice books by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson), because while he was attending Oxford he would tell stories to the Dean's daughters, one of which was named Alice! This was, supposedly, the very door where Alice peeped through the keyhole because no children were allowed to go through the door. Alice's father is buried right around the corner in a beautiful little garden.

This is the Great Hall at Christ Church college in Oxford University (for you Harry Potter fans, this is where Hogwarts was filmed - yep, this is the big dining room where all the little Hogwarts students eat). And we ate there too! The house manager arranged for us to have tea in the Great Hall. It was my first tea! Complete with cute little tea sandwiches, tea cake, and of course, tea (just kidding, it was hot chocolate). How great is that!

Having hot chocolate in the lovely teacup! I felt very proper and British. Chelsea on the left looks a little spacey... she's imagining how fabulous it would be to attend Oxford University and frequent the Great Hall every day! Actually, she looks a little concerned. What are you concerned about, Chelsea? :)

Chelsea, Kathryn, and I in the Great Hall. This is where Oxford students eat three meals a day - can you even imagine? I felt important having "tea" in the Great Hall!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

the last week or so in summary

I am never letting another week and a half go by without posting on my blog! There is WAY too much stuff to condense into one post! There is an incomprehensible amount of information I would like to shove at you.... but for your sake, I'll just give you a few highlights:

this is us at the GLOBE THEATRE. oh, yes. I saw A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Globe Theatre in London - just throw in a Ben's cookie and I can die happy!

Tennyson said that! this is inside the British Museum, which is one of the most fantastic places in London. we went as a group for a small tour, and I definitely want to go back and see everything (you could spend a whole day there and not see everything!) one thing I saw that blew my mind was the Rosetta Stone, and that completely blew me away. I was about a foot from the stone that helped scholars figure out how to read Egyptian hieroglyphics. wow!

this is me, insanely excited to be at Jane Austen's home. yes, we got along very well. swimmingly! One of the most impactful moments in the Jane Austen home was the moment when I saw the writing table that is said to have been the table she wrote at. What an important piece of history to see! She was one of the greatest writers in English history, and it was at a small, unassuming and by all appearances unimportant table that she wrote the words that immortalized her. wonderful! I also got to see where she was buried, the Winchester Cathedral.

Us at the Roman Baths in... Bath. :) yes, I was in Bath! I was excited to go to Bath primarily because it is featured in almost every Jane Austen novel... but as soon as I got there I understood why it was such a popular city! because it's gorgeous, that's why!

Chelsea, me, Kathryn at Tintagel - the site of some Medieval castle ruins and the supposed birthplace of King Arthur (by the way, I am completely disillusioned with the whole King Arthur legend... they keep trying to tell me that it's just a myth. come on guys, he was real. don't argue.)

"scissor arch" at Wells Cathedral - probably my favorite cathedral so far. wait, no, I liked St. Paul's too... dang. well, they're all really beautiful :)

Chelsea and I at Ilfracombe - Ilfracombe is a beautiful oceanside city (I mean, honestly, look at how beautiful it is? okay, the picture doesn't even do it justice). Ilfracombe didn't have any sites that we were visiting specifically, but we stayed there overnight in youth hostels. we got to watch the sun set over the ocean!

the ocean at Ilfracombe

so this is us, at the Royal Opera House, seeing a ballet! it was actually three different (shorter) ballets in one show, and the last one was Carmen, which was wonderful, of course. our tickets were only four pounds (four pounds?!? for a ballet? a real ballet?) but don't get too excited, we were four balconies up, right next to the stage, so we were practically on top of the dancers and had to lean over the balcony to see more than 50% of the stage. fun :)

Every day I am here, I have a moment of realization when I remember I am in London! It's really an indescribable feeling... like being told it's your birthday every day for six weeks! (that comparison fails... being told it's my birthday every day for six weeks would just make me feel old. but you get the idea, right?) Every day I say a prayer of gratitude for the opportunity I have to be here. Oh, and yesterday, I went to Whole Foods here in London. Yes, they have one! Isn't that incredible?? Health food stores make me feel at home... and this one knocked my socks off! three floors of scrumptious food... yum!

PS I've made a list of words I use too much when I talk about London:

I'll work on expounding my vocabulary :)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Little Venice Walk

Little Venice is a nice surprise in the middle of London. From the moment we came up from the tube stop station, we commented that it was noticeably quieter, and more tranquilo than the rest of the city. We didn't get a chance to ride down the canal in a boat, but that might have to be for a future adventure, because it would be beautiful! This city is so diverse - it amazes me how many cultures are represented here! Love, love love it.

Enter: Little Venice! The canal

the little square where St. Mary's Church was located

me, Kathryn and Chelsea in the yard of St. Mary's Church. This may sound strange, but I love all the gravestones in London - in every little churchyard, there are gravestones and monuments hundreds of years old. St. Mary's church was no exception

We loved the building facades - notedly different than other architecture in London... much more simple and less ornate

Beautiful view of the canal. Who knew there was a little Venice in London? I didn't!

Hyde Park Walk

First of all, let me just say that I love everything about London; everyday I am reminded of that. One of the things I love about London are the parks. It's incredible to me that when I'm walking in a London park, I forget the fact that I'm really in the middle of a huge, sprawling city. There is so much crammed into London, but if I ever miss the "openness," I can step into one of London's beautiful gardens and escape into the quiet island of grass, trees, flowers, lakes, and the occasional statue or monument. The BYU London Centre is just a stone's throw away from one of these parks: Hyde Park. So let me share with you a small part of my love affair with Hyde Park with a few pictures:

Wellington (Constitution) in Hyde Park corner. On top of the arch is topped by a huge statue of Peace Descending on the Chariot of War. Massive statue, massively cool!

the girls at some randomly cool gate by Hyde Park

World War I ("The Great War") Memorial statue: The inscription on the front says this:

"In Proud Remembrance of the Forty-Nine Thousand & Seventy-Six of All Ranks of the Royal Regiment of Artillery Who Gave Their Lives for King And Country in the Great War. 1914-1919"

walking along the Princess Diana Memorial Walk

quintessential bench-in-park picture

Me, Kathryn, Shaina at the Holocaust Memorial Garden

statue of Diana (only ranked a 1 0r 2 on the Dr. Macfarlane interest-ability scale, but it makes for a beautiful picture!)

the pathway strewn with fallen spring blossoms :)

walking along Serpentine Lake

lovely, lovely, lovely!

As usual, pictures are insufficient, but hopefully you got the idea! I love the idea of having a quiet place to go to, accessible at any given moment. I need to take the opportunity to sit by myself in Hyde Park (or any London park, for that matter) and soak in all the experiences I am having here. I'm getting spoiled, and I don't think Utah parks are going to cut it for me when I return home ;)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

first week

Now that I'm over the jet lag and into the swing of things, I wanted to post a few snapshots from my first week in London. This is such a beautiful, diverse city. I've been in awe every day of the things I see; it's so incredible that I'm even here! It's such a privilege to be here, and I am more aware of that every day. I feel like I've seen so much already, and it's only been a few days! At the same time, there is so much more to see. so I'll definitely be giving you all frequent updates! and because a picture is worth a thousand words... here are a few pictures worth a few thousand words for you! Enjoy!

this isn't the best shot, but I had to post it because it's the very first time I saw Big Ben - my group was coming up from the Tube (it was the very first day) and we walked up the stairs and BAM! right there in front of us was Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. quite the shock! that was the first time I realized "I am in London!"
London Tower Bridge - I walked across it, and I'm certainly going to revisit because it was a favorite spot! it's beautiful at dusk.

an insanely beautiful view of St. Paul's Cathedral from a bridge over the Thames. the guy in front of me apparently thought it was a good idea to take a picture, too!

Big Ben! and the Houses of Parliament. so, so, so beautiful!

me in front of the Houses of Parliament - and you can see a bit of Big Ben, too!

I love love love the light posts here! so pretty. and as you can see, there are still pretty blossoms on the trees! this is alongside the Thames

me at Piccadilly Circus (the Times Square of London). all the main theatres are around here... in fact, I saw Phantom of the Opera just around the corner!

kind of a random shot of St. Paul's, with the Union Jack and a double decker bus! I went to the very top of St. Paul's, btw :) (see below) this is one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever stepped foot in. really, though, it's amazing.

this is me on the verrrry top of St. Paul's Cathedral - there are 530 stairs to the very top of the dome... the last bit was a long winding staircase, which kind of freaked me out (Carrie, you wouldn't have been able to do it!) it was the most beautiful view though!

feeding the pigeons in front of St. Paul's Cathedral (like in Mary Poppins.
yeah, I'm that awesome) :)

lame, I don't know why this picture loaded sideways (it's not like that in my computer) oh well. this is me at Phantom of the Opera! I was so excited that I was jumping out of my chair and Kathryn (who was with me) probably thought I was really crazy. well, I am!

with my opera glasses :) we were way in the balcony, but it was still amazing!

Charlie Chaplain statue! are my eyes closed? that would be unfortunate

Me in front of the National Gallery